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3. And God said Moses now, for the first time, introduces God in the act of speaking, as if he had created the mass of heaven and earth without the Word.4848 “Sans sa Parole” — “without his Word.” — French Tr. Yet John testifies that
‘without him nothing was made of the things which were made,’ (John 1:3.)
And it is certain that the world had been begun by the same efficacy of the Word by which it was completed. God, however, did not put forth his Word until he proceeded to originate light;4949
“Sed Deus Verbum suum nonnisi in lucis origine, protulit.” — “Mais Dieu n’a point mis sa Parole en avant, sinon en la creation de la lumiere.” — “But God did not put his Word forward except in the creation of the light.” — French Tr.
because in the act of distinguishing5050
“In distinctione.” The French is somewhat different: “Pource que la distinction de sa Sagesse commenca lors a apparoir evidemment.” — “Because that the distinction of his Wisdom began then to appear evidently.” The printing of the word Wisdom with a capital, renders it probable that by it Calvin means the Son
of God, who is styled Wisdom in the eighth chapter of Proverbs and elsewhere. Whence it would seem that he intends the whole of what he here says as an argument in favor of the Deity of Christ. — Ed.
his wisdom begins to be conspicuous. Which thing alone is sufficient to confute the blasphemy of Servetus. This impure caviler asserts,5151
“Latrat hic obscoenus canis.”
that the first beginning of the Word was when God commanded the light to be; as if the cause, truly, were not prior to its effect. Since however by the Word of God things which were not came suddenly into being, we ought rather to infer the eternity of His essence. Wherefore the Apostles rightly prove the Deity of Christ from hence, that since he is the Word of God, all things have been created by him. Servetus imagines a new quality in God when he begins to speak. But far otherwise
must we think concerning the Word of God, namely, that he is the Wisdom dwelling in God,5252
“Mais il faut bien autrement sentir de la Parole de Dieu, assavoir que c’est la Sapience residente en luy.” — French Tr.
and without which God could never be; the effect of which, however, became apparent when the light was created.5353
To understand this difficult and obscure passage, it will be necessary to know something of the ground taken by Servetus in his attempt to subvert the doctrine of the Trinity. He maintained that Christ was not the Son of God as to his divine nature, but only as to his human, and that this title belonged to him solely in consequence of His incarnation. Yet he professed to believe in the Word, as an emanation of some kind
from the Deity; compounded — as he explains it — of the essence of God, of spirit, of flesh, and of three uncreated elements. These three elements appeared, as he supposes, in the first light of the world, in the cloud, and in the pillar of fire. (See Calvin’s Institutes, Book II. c. xiv.) This illustrates what Calvin means when he says, that Servetus imagines a new quality in God when he begins to speak. The distinct personality of the Word being denied, qualities or attributes of Deity are
put in his place. Against this Calvin contends. His argument seems to be to the following effect: — The creation of the indigested mass called heaven and earth, in the first verse, was apparently — though not really — without the Word, inasmuch as the Word is not mentioned. But when there began to be a distinction, (such as light developed,) then the Word existed before he acted — the cause was prior to its effect. We ought, therefore, to infer the eternal existence of the Word, as he contends
the Apostles do, from the fact that all things were created by Him. Whatever quality God possessed when he began to speak, he must have possessed before. His Word, or his Wisdom, or his only-begotten Son, dwelt in Him, and was one with him from eternity; the same Word, or Wisdom, acted really in the creation of the chaotic mass, though not apparently. But in the creation of light, the very commencement of distinguishing, (exordium distinctionis,) this divine Word or Wisdom was manifest.
Having given, to the best of my judgment, an explanation of Calvin’s reasoning, truth obliges me to add, that it seems to be an involved and unsatisfactory argument to prove —
1st, That the Second Person of the Trinity is distinctly referred to in the second verse of this chapter; and,
2nd, That He is truly though not obviously the Creator of heaven and earth mentioned in the first verse.
It furnishes occasion rather for regret than for surprise, that the most powerful minds are sometimes found attempting to sustain a good cause by inconclusive reasoning. — Ed.
Let there be light It we proper that the light, by means of which the world was to be adorned with such excellent beauty, should be first created; and this also was the commencement of the distinction, (among the creatures.5454 “De la distinction des les creatures.” — French Tr. That is, the beauties of nature could not be perceived, nor the distinction between different objects discerned without the light. — Ed. ) It did not, however, happen from inconsideration or by accident, that the light preceded the sun and the moon. To nothing are we more prone than to tie down the power of God to those instruments the agency of which he employs. The sun an moon supply us with light: And, according to our notions we so include this power to give light in them, that if they were taken away from the world, it would seem impossible for any light to remain. Therefore the Lord, by the very order of the creation, bears witness that he holds in his hand the light, which he is able to impart to us without the sun and moon. Further, it is certain from the context, that the light was so created as to be interchanged with darkness. But it may be asked, whether light and darkness succeeded each other in turn through the whole circuit of the world; or whether the darkness occupied one half of the circle, while light shone in the other. There is, however, no doubt that the order of their succession was alternate, but whether it was everywhere day at the same time, and everywhere night also, I would rather leave undecided; nor is it very necessary to be known.5555 See Note at p. 61.